In honor of the 100 Year Anniversary of the National Parks Service, here is a travel journal to collect cancellation passport stamps and memories from the 59 National Parks and many other National Historic Sites.
You can find all the National Passport Stamp Locations Here.
Step 1: Background
If the National Parks are considered to be "America's Best Idea", then surely its second best idea is that of the National Parks Passport Stamp!*. Few things can beat the elegance of a souvenir that costs nothing and takes up so little space for its collection. Add that to the wonderful official and commemorative sense of completion you get by boldly stamping a page, and it is definitely one of my favorite things that I want to share with everyone!
While I have the blue and gold official "Passport To Your National Parks" book, and I like it, I have found that there is just not enough room for all the stamps I am collecting. Olympic National Park alone has at least 14 different stamps you can get throughout the park! And, if I go back to a park a few years later, I want the dated proof of that trip in my book as well. I've also been thwarted in my desire to add other bits of memorabilia and nature by its lack of room.
So, I decided I needed a new Passport Stamp Journal, and something rustic and leather was the obvious choice. I had never worked with leather before this project as I was always intimidated by it, but now I am hooked.
This is a very simple project that just about anyone can do. I hope you make it and enjoy and treasure it for year to come. I know I will. Happy Stamping!
* I call them passport stamps, but technically they are called cancellations.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
- Vegetable Tanned Tooling Leather ( 6" x 10.25" )
I recommend an 8-1/2" x 11" ready to use piece of Vegetable Tanned Tooling Leather that you can get at most major craft stores (Michaels, Jo-Ann, Tandy Leather). I got mine at Hobby Lobby with the weekly 40% off coupon ($6.60 after discount). You can probably use many types of leather for this project, but it has to be veg-tan if you want to stamp impressions. The thickness I used was 4-5 oz leather.
- Waxed Thread (approx. 5 yds)
I purchased 25 yds from Hobby Lobby for $3.77.
- Buffalo Nickel Concho
I purchased mine in store from Hobby Lobby for $1.99. I don't see it on the website, but I have seen them at the other retailers listed above.
- Paper (Letter Sized: 15 sheets for Journal and 3 sheets for Templates)
I recommend Staples 67lb White Cover Stock. It is thick enough that there is minimal bleed through, it tears beautifully, and feels and looks substantial and inviting. I just happened to have a ream of this paper from another project, as it is the thickest my printer can handle, but you can easily use whatever paper you have on hand. If it is thinner, you might need to add more pages, and if it is thicker you might need to drop a few.
- Leather Dye
I used Eco-Flo Gel Antique in Dark Brown purchased from Tandy Leather.
- Leather Finish
I used Fiebing's Leather Balm with Atom Wax purchased from Tandy Leather.
- Printer for pdf template
- Ruler and/or Ruled Right Angle (cm)
- Writing Utensil
- Sissors for cutting out template
- Bone Folder (I just use the end of a Sharpie)
Cutting the Leather
- Cutting mat or board
- Box Knife or X-acto (make sure to have a new sharp blade)
- Tape for anchoring the template
- Dotting Tool (or some other rounded tip implement for press tracing into the leather)
- Sponge and water for casing the leather
- Wooden Mallet (from what I have read, you should not use a metal hammer)
- Leather Alphabet Stamps
I used two different sets:
For the quote body I used Tandy Leather Factory 1/4" Alphabet Set. Since I have got into leather these last few months I have purchased multiple sets, but THIS IS MY FAVORITE!!! If you don't have a set, this is the one I recommend for its nice wide readable font that gives the impression of bigger letters, but is still small enough for other projects. Alternately the 1/4" Tandy Leather Factory Alphabet & Number Set is a good choice too (it can also be purchased from Hobby Lobby, Yay for 40% off Coupons!)
For the quote signature I used ArtMinds 1/8" Alphabet & Number Stamp Set. I do NOT recommend this set! The letters are so tiny compared to the massive backing that I struggle to see what I am doing and place them properly. I'm going to look at the Tandy Leather Factory 1/8" Alphabet & Number Stamp Set as a replacement (it comes with @ and & symbols as a bonus).
As a substitute, if you have metal stamps already, you can use those. The results are not quite as neat, but they work well enough, especially if this is a one time foray into leather stamping.
- Work Surface Protection (I use a large paper sack)
- Gloves to protect skin from dye
- Paper Towels or Soft Cloth to apply and buff dye and finish
- Wool Dabber (can be used to get dye into stamped lettering)
- Awl for piercing leather and paper
- Needle (rounded tip and big eye)
- Pliers for pulling needle through tight spots
- Leather Hole Punch
- Flat Head Screwdriver (I just used a dime)
Step 3: Preparing the Paper
1) Fold each letter sheet of paper with the Hamburger Fold (15 sheets)
Make sure to get a nice crease along the edge. I don't have a bone folder for this so I just use the back of a Sharpie. I crease both sides and then flip it inside out and crease both sides again. A good crease will make step 2 easier.
2) Tear the paper along the fold
HINT: place one hand adjacent and parallel to the fold on the top of the paper, pressing firmly into your work surface, and on the other side of the fold at the top pull the paper perpendicular to the fold, staying in the same plane as the paper. I find I have to do it in 3 or 4 segments; I tear a few inches, move my hands down and then tear a few more inches, repeating until they are separated.
3) Fold each of the resulting half pieces with a Hamburger Fold
Make sure to get good creases on these folds too.
4) Stack 6 of the folded papers together making 5 stacks
Open each of the folded pieces and nest the "V"s into each other. You will notice because of the tear, that each paper has a fuzzy torn side and a pristine smooth cut side. You will want to alternate your stack... fuzzy side up, fuzzy side down, fuzzy side up, etc. When you get 6 pieces all stacked and alternating, Hamburger Fold all 6 together. Gently tap all four edges to make a nice neat stack. You should have 5 stack of 6 sheets. When you count both sides and the fold over, it will produce a 120 page book!
Step 4: Making the Template
I have included pdf templates for cutting and piercing the paper and leather.
You will know if the template printed to the correct size if one of the folded-over halfs of paper from the previous step is the same size as the white rectangles on either of the templates.
You will want to cut around the furthest black line on the outside each of each. The black dots represent where the awl will pierce the paper and leather.
Hamburger Fold the smaller of the two and crease thoroughly. The fold should transect all the black dots.
Step 5: Cutting the Leather
1) Using a very mildly sticky tape, align and tape down the larger template (the one with the orange/brown edge) to your leather. Use as little tape as possible, because if it is too sticky, it can slightly mar the finish of the leather that you might want to use for another project.
2) Using the dotting tool, trace the template onto the leather by pushing firmly into the leather and dragging the tool. It should leave a gentle ditch all along the edge of the template.
3) Remove the template after checking that the markings are visible enough.
4) Place the leather on a cutting mat or board, and using a sharp box knife or X-acto knife, slowly cut along your marked lines. Rotate and shift the leather as needed so that you always have the ideal cutting angle. Don't worry if you don't make it all the way through on the first pass. Just go over the cut as many times as necessary to free your piece.
5) Re-place the template over the leather and secure. Punch all the black dots with the awl. It might be handy to stab through the paper into the leather just enough to mark it while it is on the cutting board. After removing the template, go back to all your marks and work in a good hole with the awl.
Step 6: Piercing the Paper
Wedge the smaller of the templates into the middle of each of the "V" stacks and using the awl, pierce through the stack at each black dots.
Step 7: Folding the Book
1) Place the template back over the leather, but this time with the rough side of the leather facing up, and using the dotting tool trace the spine edge outlines into the leather (they are the 2 lines just to the outside of the lines with dots).
2) Remove the template and fold the leather along both the markings. You will have to muscle it and work it a bit to get it into the right shape.
NOTE: You can do this step before or after dyeing. If you do it before, you will have wrinkles that will be highlighted and enhanced by the dye. Depending on your personal aesthetics, you might either cringe at the highlighted imperfections or admire the character if gives. Also, I find it handy to do this step before stamping my design, as it gives me a better idea of where my quote will appear in the final product.
Step 8: Stamp the Leather
I chose a very short quote by Henry David Thoreau:
"All good things are wild and free."
I really liked some quotes by John Muir, but alas, they were too long. :(
1) Place the leather smooth side up on a hard surface. I just used my coffee table with a cutting mat to protect it.
2) Case the leather by slowly applying generous amounts of water with a sponge across the area that you want to stamp. Keep applying strokes of water with the wet sponge until the leather does not appear to be sucking it in any longer.
3) Wait until the leather starts to return to its natural color
4) Gently but firmly set the stamp in the desired location and give it a few solid wacks with a wood mallet.
I just eyeballed the alignment and made up the arrangement as I went.
HINT: to make sure you have enough room for the signature, start at the right margin and work backwards to the left (...U...A...E...R...O...H...T)
Step 9: Dye the Leather
FYI- I am terrible at dying leather and I had a terrible time trying to take photos while doing it, so I apologize. I figure it is a rustic outdoor journal, so it doesn't have to be perfect.
1) Cover you work surface (I just use an old paper grocery bag)
2) Apply a liberal amount of of dye to a soft cloth (a folded up paper towel will work if it is not too linty)
3) Work the dye into the leather rubbing in a circular motion. Make sure you get both sides and the edges. Use a dabber or paint brush to get into the cracks if you want your letting the same color as the rest of the cover.
HINT: If you want the recessed stamped letters to retain the lighter original color, do NOT apply the dye directly to this location. Apply it else where, and then when the applicator is almost empty of dye, rub it across the lettering.
4) Allow dye to dry. I live in a dry climate and I'm inpatient, so I only gave it about 20 minutes.
5) Work the Leather Balm into the leather by rubbing in a circular motion. Make sure you get both sides and the edges.
6) Allow Leather Balm to Dry.
7) Buff with a dry cloth or paper towel into a nice sheen.
Step 10: Sewing the Pages
1) Cut about 1 foot of waxed thread.
2) Thread your needle and knot the end. I try to make two knots on top of each other.
3) Looking down on the smooth outside of your leather, pass your needle through the first hole in the upper left hand corner of the books spine. You might need to use pliers to pull it through.
4) Then pass the needle through the top hole on the outside spine of one of your six-page bundles. Your needle should now be on the inside of the "V".
5) Moving to the next hole down, pass the needle back through the fold of the paper stack and then out through the leather.
6) Continue in and out until you reach the end. The needle should be on the outside/smooth side of the leather.
7) Starting at the knotted end, pull the thread tight through each segment.
8) Knot the thread twice, getting as close as you can to the leather. I used the needle to to hold the knot in place as I was tightening it.
9) Cut the thread near the knot and then gently rub the end into to knot. The wax in the thread will help hold it in a ball.
10) Repeat for each of the 4 remaining page bundles.
BONUS IDEAS: Decorative elements if you have the inclination, materials, and/or time
Map Cover Page
1) Use the larger leather template and cut off the orange/brown border
2) Center the new template over a desired map area and trace. If using a double sided map like an atlas, make sure the other side is interesting too.
3) Realign template and pierce map at every black dot.
4) Use by sandwiching between leather and bundles during sewing.
Before you sew your paper bundles in, you can use a machine like the Cricut to cut interesting elements into your paper. I cut out an outline of the lower 48 States using Cricut image #M3320D.
Step 11: Assembling the Closure
1) Locate the location for the concho along the right front cover of the book.
2) Using a leather hole punch and the wooden mallet, hammer a small hole out of the leather
3) Screw in the concho. I used a dime.
4) Cut 3 yards of waxed thread.
5) Double it over on itself
6) Make a slip loop on the doubled-over end
7) Pass the loop over the concho and pull tight.
8) Wrap thread around book about 4 times and then around concho
9) Cut thread to taste
Step 12: Yay! You Are Done!
Hit the road and collect stamps!